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Onward State Cocoa Crawl 2012

Like most college students, the only reason I can keep my head from slamming into my desk (via sleep deprivation/frustration) during finals week is my deep co-dependence on coffee. But sometimes we all have those days where coffee just isn’t going cut it. These are the days I put on my best sweats and my “I’m going interact with people today” game face, in order to get myself some cozy hot chocolate goodness. Since finals are coming up and most people (like me) eat their stress away, I’ve decided to rank the most popular/easily accessible hot chocolate destinations to make your last minute snack runs more efficient. That way you can spend more time studying.

Hitting up 7 different places for hot chocolate in one week was already a challenge, so I adopted a collegiate balls-to-the-wall attitude and went to as many places as possible in one day. This resulted in my very own Cocoa Crawl (and only slightly less vomiting than an actual bar tour)! I prefer to use the term “crawl” because it alludes to how I maneuver my way to and from class during finals week. The best part about The Crawl is that drinking four hot chocolates in one hour certainly keeps up a nice sugar high for finals, eliminating the crawl altogether and replacing it with a kind of hyperactive bounce. However, you should beware the inevitable crash, basically the chocolate version of a hangover.

To make my rating unbiased as possible, I decided to use a point system a la Iron Chef. My judging criteria is as follows:

  • Intensity of Chocolate flavor: 10 points possible
  • Texture/Thickness: 10 points possible
  • Price: 10 points possible
  • Whipped Cream: 5 points
  • Fancy Chocolate syrup design: 5 bonus points

Now prepare to get chocolate wasted!

Panera: I was surprised by Panera’s hot chocolate since it is a chain, but the drink was silky and thick, and rich with chocolate flavor. It only comes in one size, but it looked like a medium, which was a good deal for $1.99. Panera also offers peppermint and regular hot chocolate, and it was nice to have a choice.

  • Intensity of Chocolate flavor: 8/10
  • Texture/Thickness: 8/10
  • Price: 8/10
  • Whipped Cream: 5/5
  • Fancy Chocolate syrup design: 5/5

TOTAL: 34/40


Dunkin’ Donuts: Now I had heard some pretty negative comments about Dunkin’ Donuts’ drinks (or at least those other than coffee) so I didn’t expect much. My expectations were completely unfounded, as their peppermint hot chocolate was one of my favorites of The Crawl. The price was $1.69 for a small, but unlike other coffee shops, the small was actually small and, in my opinion, the perfect size for a hot chocolate. I don’t know about you, but if the hot chocolate is good enough I only want a small amount, lest I get sick from overindulgence.

  • Intensity of Chocolate flavor: 8/10
  • Texture/Thickness: 8/10
  • Price: 7/10
  • Whipped Cream: 0/5
  • Fancy Chocolate syrup design: 0/5

TOTAL: 23/40


Saint’s Café/Webster’s: I hate to say it but I was completely disappointed in both of these fine coffee establishments. I already enjoy their coffee and pastries, so it was a huge let down when I bought their hot chocolate. They are lumped together because they both tasted exactly the same: like milk with some Nesquik added for flavor. This makes sense, because when I watched my drinks being made it literally looked like they took chocolate milk out of the fridge and steamed it. Now this by itself isn’t a problem, but if you’re going to charge me $3 and call it “Gourmet Hot Chocolate”, I’m going to have to call bullshit on that.

  • Intensity of Chocolate flavor: 3/10
  • Texture/Thickness: 2/10
  • Price: 1/10
  • Whipped Cream: 5/5
  • Fancy Chocolate syrup design: 0/5

TOTAL: 11/40


Starbucks: Starbucks seems to be a student’s favorite coffee shop of choice, even though the price is a bit ludicrous (although I have to admit their location in the HUB is most convenient). For $2.20, I got a small plain hot chocolate, although peppermint, salted caramel, and white hot chocolate flavors were also offered. It was very good, but tasted suspiciously similar to Panera’s. So if I were you, I would skip the long lines at the HUB and hop down to Panera to save that hard earned Lion Cash.

  • Intensity of Chocolate flavor: 8/10
  • Texture/Thickness: 8/10
  • Price: 6/10
  • Whipped Cream: 5/5
  • Fancy Chocolate syrup design: 5/5

TOTAL: 32/40


Irving’s: It’s no secret that Irving’s is a favorite hang out of Onward State — our very own “Batcave” if you will) — and it’s for good reason. Although sometimes the prices may be a bit high, the overall quality of the product is worth it— Irving’s hot chocolate being no exception. I got the dark chocolate peppermint flavor, and it arrived not only with whipped cream and chocolate sauce, but also crushed up candy canes. It was basically a dream come true. I also really appreciated the dark chocolate option (you know, for health reasons). White chocolate peppermint and plain were offered as well. The price for my candy cane hot chocolate was around $2-3.

  • Intensity of Chocolate flavor: 10/10
  • Texture/Thickness: 9/10
  • Price: 5/10
  • Whipped Cream: 5/5
  • Fancy Chocolate syrup design: 5/5

TOTAL: 35/40


Dining Commons: Last but not least, I decided to check out the machine generated hot chocolate from the commons, since it is free with any meal plan and the most convenient for stressed-out students. It tasted like any truck stop hot chocolate, and was so sweet I got an instant sugar headache. But it did satisfy that kid inside me that always declares “NOT. SWEET. ENOUGH”.

  • Intensity of Chocolate flavor: 4/10
  • Texture/Thickness: 5/10
  • Price: 10/10
  • Whipped Cream: 0/5
  • Fancy Chocolate syrup design: 0/5

TOTAL: 19/40 

Final results from the Onward State Cocoa Crawl 2012:

  • 6h place-Webster’s/Saint’s Café
  • 5h place-Dining Hall
  • 4h place-Dunkin’ Donuts
  • 3rd place-Starbucks
  • 2nd place-Panera
  • 1st place-Irvings

Thank you to all of the coffee shops I’ve visited in the past 2 days.

About the Author

Catie Simpson

Catie is a junior majoring in Human Development and Family Studies. She's also the resident townie and culinary enthusiast due to a brief stint at the CIA (the culinary school not the secret government agency). She currently works at a Baby Temperament Lab on campus where she tries to get babies to do dangerous things. She's also on the twitter.


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